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MC 767; Vt-236

Pryor, Janis A. Papers of Janis A. Pryor, 1934-2001: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 767; Vt-236
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Pryor, Janis A.
Title: Papers of Janis A. Pryor, 1934-2001
Date(s): 1934-2001
Quantity: 10.63 linear feet (25 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 7 folio folders, 1 folio+ folder, 17 photograph folders, 2 folio photograph folders, 3 slides, 7 videotapes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Biographical material, appointment books, photographs, campaign records, teaching papers, writings, audiovisual material, etc., of Janis A. Pryor, media and political consultant.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 2010-M110
The papers of Janis A. Pryor were given to the Schlesinger Library by Janis A. Pryor in 2010.

Processing Information:

Processed: January 2014
By: Emilyn Brown, with the assistance of Emily Underwood.

Access Restrictions:

Access. The written permission of Janis A. Pryor (and after her death Lydia Brassard or Rhonda Jackson) is required until January 1, 2040 for access to the collection. Folder #3.8 is closed until January 1, 2051. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Janis A. Pryor is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Written permission is required for copying until January 1, 2040.

Preferred Citation:

Papers of Janis A. Pryor, 1934-2001; item description, dates. MC 767, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

BIOGRAPHY

Media professional and political operative, Janis Augusta Pryor, was born in 1949 in New York City to Leontine L. Pryor, an educator and Harry P. Pryor, a decorated World War II veteran. She was raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi by her maternal grandparents returning to New York City for school. They lived on the upper west side of Manhattan in a predominantly Jewish community of Holocaust survivors. Her family later moved to the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Pryor attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated in 1967. A graduate of Bennington College, Pryor majored in painting and architecture with secondary studies in cultural anthropology. She received a BFA in 1971.
After relocating to the Boston area, her first professional political position was that of Legislative Aide for the Massachusetts Legislative Political Caucus. She was then promoted to Administrative Aide. She went on to work as a Special Aide for the Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which involved the production and writing of voting guides for referendums on the ballot. It was during this period that Pryor left the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and went to work on the Edward Brooke Campaign as a Media Aide and Special Events Coordinator. Senator Brooke was not re-elected to the U.S. Senate. The extraordinary role of the media in that campaign led her to explore and become versed with its power and operation.
Following the Brooke campaign she was hired by WBZ-TV as associate producer for a daily live show. She then went on to work at WCVB-TV as a field producer. During her tenure at WBZ as an associate producer, she was invited by the American Council of Young Political Leaders to be part of the first official political delegation to China. She was hired by the Edward M. Kennedy presidential campaign in 1980 as an Assistant Field Director and Special Aide charged with repairing the damage to the Senator's standing in the black community due to his support of Paul Tsongas against Senator Brooke. During that time she was asked to return to WBZ as editorial director for WBZ-TV and Radio. As Editorial Director she received an Emmy nomination for her composite entry of broadcast editorials.
While serving as Editorial Director, Pryor was asked by the Kennedy office to join their Senatorial staff as Legislative and Special Aide to build relationships with a variety of constituencies. In 1983, Pryor co-directed the Boston Mayoral campaign of Mel King, former state representative of the 9th Suffolk District of the Massachusetts Commonwealth.
In 1984, she approached her former boss, Sy Yanoff, who was then General Manager of WNEV-TV, now WHDH-TV, with the idea of producing a special on the Presidential Campaign of Jesse Jackson. The idea grew into three one hour documentaries titled Jesse Jackson: On The Record, that traced his evolution as a political leader and presidential candidate. The production took her across the United States and to Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Mexico. In addition to being broadcast on WNEV-TV in 1984, a two hour special of the series was aired the following year on the PBS network. The film received an award from the International Television and Film Festival for outstanding cultural programming, and the Iris Award for talk show programming.
She has worked for a broad array of elected officials and candidates, including former Lt. Governor Evelyn Murphy, Senator John Kerry (now Secretary of State) and the maiden campaign of former State Senator Dianne Wilkerson on strategic planning.
In the latter half of the 1980s, Pryor participated in a number of other professional activities. From 1986 through 1988, she served as Director of Media Relations and Senior Media Relations Specialist at Northeastern University, and was responsible for organizing the University's first public relations team. She produced Definitions Part I: No Blacks, No Jews, No Gays with funding from Northeastern University and the Society Organized Against Racism (SOAR), a consortium of universities and colleges that includes Dartmouth, Wheelock, and Manhattanville colleges and Brown and Harvard universities. Created for undergraduate students, the film's theme of tolerance generated widespread media attention.
In 1987, she presented a paper at the Third International Congress of Women in Dublin, Ireland, on African American women writers and survival. She also played an instrumental role in organizing the Women's Watch Against Violence, and was an invitee to the First Minoan Partnership Celebration in Crete, Greece, an international gathering of women activists.
An active board member of several Boston and Cambridge organizations, Pryor was the chief architect of the Arts and Dialogue on Race as co-chair of the Board for the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The project was funded for four years. In addition she sat on the board of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Silver Buffalo Consulting based on California, Crossroads Antiracism Organizing based in Illinois and the John Mack Institute.
As political and media consultant for the Boston Ten Point Coalition, she was charged with making them a viable political entity. During her service to Ten Point, they became known as "the Boston Miracle" for the dramatic reduction in gang violence and youth homicide. Pryor also negotiated the collaboration between the founders of Boston's Ten Point Coalition and a Cambridge management consulting firm, DIAlogos. The essence of the coalition centered on gathering traditionally conflicting constituencies to work on mutual problems. This technique was presented to British Petroleum as a basis for developing their own program on community social responsibility.
During the scope of her professional life, Pryor also worked with like-minded colleagues to produce issue oriented videos including the half hour documentary for the World Council of Churches titled, God Among the Children. The film was aired on the BBC and parts of Africa and Asia as part of the council's Peace to the City Campaign. Pryor developed treatments for video projects regarding women, marginalized populations and the psychological well-being of children.
While working as a part-time faculty member at Wheelock College for almost seven years she developed and taught courses on Women In Politics, examining diverse women's relationship to power in the United States. She also developed and taught a course on Contemporary Presidential Politics designed to expose students to the "hardball" rules of electoral politics. In 1993, she led a study group on Race, Gender and Power at the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Over the years, Pryor maintained a strong interest in the arts, which includes theatrical productions, writing, and the visual arts. In 1999 she was hired to produce Anna Deavere Smith's experimental program, the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard University. In addition to co-authoring a bi-weekly column with Reverend Jeffrey Brown, co-founder of the Boston Ten-Point Coalition, (published in the Cambridge Chronicle), she has published numerous articles and short stories that have appeared in Middlesex News, The Boston Herald, Boston Magazine, Sojourner, and Essence Magazine. Pryor was hired by WUMB-FM, a public radio station originating from the UMass Boston campus, to host and produce their syndicated public affairs program, Commonwealth Journal. For five years she interviewed a broad range of individuals including folk singer Judy Collins, former Governor Mitt Romney, Senator John Kerry, writers, activists and public officials. She developed a special series of live broadcasts, titled Wicked Smart, showcasing the best and the brightest. Those interviewed included, Professor Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot, Senior Lecturer Peter Senge, MIT, journalist and CNN commentator, David Gergen among others.
In 2005, she returned to her studies in art and architecture and completed an intensive summer program in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Since then her art work is being represented by the Jackson Art Studio and Gallery in Jackson, New Hampshire, where she has resided since 2012. For the overwhelming majority of her adult life, she resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in five series:

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The papers of Janis A. Pryor document her personal life and professional career as a media and political consultant. Personal records include appointment books; awards and citations for professional achievements; curricula vitae; meritorious awards, essays, plays, and diplomas from schools she attended; photographs, photograph albums, and scrapbooks; and personal correspondence. The collection also documents the working lives of a multi-generational family of African, Choctaw and European heritage. Included are the papers of Pryor's maternal grandparents, Josephine and William Augusta Lawrence, and those of her parents Leontine L. and Harry P. Pryor. These papers relate to property ownership, employment during World War II, and various family achievements. The bulk of the collection relates to Pryor's professional life, and includes correspondence, memoranda, logistical planning notebooks, and research documenting her extensive work in political campaigns at local, state, and national levels. Correspondence, proposals, reports, organizational records, and other items highlight her participation in conferences, her work on the boards of various community organizations, and her accomplishments as an independent videographer and media consultant. Some videotapes are included in the collection. Educational materials, which include course proposals; class outlines and descriptions; bibliographic material; and faculty evaluations, relate to her work as a part time faculty member at local colleges. A substantial number of her writings are also included, but mainly consist of unpublished drafts. This material, which includes articles, essays, novels and novellas, sheds some light on her personal life and past work experiences, including the challenges of working for political candidates. Pryor also maintained several journals that are work-related that have been filed with the activities they describe. Most of the material arrived at the library without an existing order. The archivist provided the arrangement, interfiled loose material, and created the folder titles.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1934-2001, n.d. (#1.1-4.1, FD.1, FD.4-FD.7, F+D.1, Mem.1), includes appointment books documenting Pryor's years at Bennington College, and her professional career in media and politics. Also included are awards and citations; curricula vitae, biographical statements, and resumes; and educational records, consisting of speeches, plays, graduation programs, diplomas, and certificates of merit from elementary, junior high, and high schools. Papers related to Pryor's maternal grandparents, Josephine and William Augusta Lawrence, include deeds for property in Gulfport, Mississippi (#2.8-2.9), and their employment records from war related industries during World War II (#2.10). Other family papers include the military discharge papers and birth and death records of Pryor's father, Harry P. Pryor, a decorated World War II veteran. Family papers related to her mother, Leontine L. Pryor, include an autograph album from Spelman College (#2.11), an Order of the Eastern Star sorority pin (#Mem.1), and correspondence concerning a legal dispute over the Leontine L. Pryor Day Care Center, which she founded and directed (#3.1-3.4). Notable items include a letter from Dorothy Height, former president of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., conferring an award to Leontine Pryor (#3.4). The collection also includes two photograph albums and two family scrapbooks, which were fragile and dismantled. These scrapbooks, in their original format, are included in the series. The first scrapbook (#FD.4-FD.7) documents the activities of Leontine Pryor, and includes photographs of her graduation from Spelman College, events she attended with her husband and friends, and Pryor with children at the Leontine Pryor Day Care Center. This scrapbook also includes greeting cards related to the birth of Janis; anniversaries, and other events; clippings related to her educational goals; activities at the Leontine L. Pryor Day Care Center; and the Spelman Messenger (#FD.7), an alumni magazine published by Spelman College. The second scrapbook (#F+D.1) documents Janis Pryor's formative years, including birth announcements and greeting cards; service awards, speeches, and art work from elementary school; and photographs taken at various phases of her life. See Series IV for additional photographs. The series is arranged alphabetically with family records arranged chronologically thereunder.
Series II, POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS, 1975-1998, n.d. (#4.2-12.10, FD.2), includes campaign brochures; flyers and fact sheets; clippings; correspondence; committee records; staff memoranda; financial records; mailing lists; photographs; press releases; and speeches. Also included are logistical planning notebooks containing schedules and notes from community meetings, fundraisers, and public events. These notebooks document the day-to-day activities related to the senatorial reelection campaign of Edward Brooke (1978); the presidential campaign (1980) and senatorial reelection campaigns (1982) of Edward M. Kennedy; the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson (1984, 1988); and the mayoral campaign of Mel King (1983). There are some records representing Pryor's role as a speech writer and political strategist for Dianne Wilkerson during her campaign for the Massachusetts Senate (1992), as well as a logistical planning notebook containing a few entries related to the Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign of Senator John Kerry (1996), although Pryor's specific role in his campaign is unclear. Other notable items include correspondence, agendas, and planning notes related to Women for Brooke, a fundraiser organized by Pryor and attended by Coretta Scott King, Gloria Steinem, Ellie Smeal, Muriel Snowden, and others (#4.5-4.6); and a pastel drawing of Jesse Jackson created by Pryor (#FD.2). Records related to Pryor's award-winning documentary of Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign are included in Series III. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series III, OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1969-2001, n.d. (#12.11-26.3, FD.3), contains records documenting Pryor's work in a broad range of related activities, including WBZ-TV (Boston) print editorials and related notes on the Boston housing market, disputes between Chinatown residents and Tufts University, homeless women, and other community issues; employment evaluations; correspondence; memoranda; and publicity related to WBZ-TV's (Boston) promotional campaign in support of art. There are also some records documenting her production work on the Women79 program, (#23.11) (broadcast on WBZ-TV), and the City Streets program, (#24.1) (broadcast on WCVB-TV). Throughout her career, Pryor participated in and attended conferences that focused on women's issues; African Americans in the media industry; and leadership in world affairs. Conference materials include correspondence; programs, flyers and agendas; draft notes and revisions of abstracts; journals; and Pryor's speeches, which include: "Black American Women Writers: Enhancing Self Image to Promote Social Change...Not Yet," presented at the Third Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Ireland (1987) (#13.9). Of particular note are records documenting Pryor's organization of the Women's Watch Against Violence (#14.2).
An active board member of community-based organizations, which include the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and the Cambridge Multi-cultural Arts Center, Pryor's work is documented in minutes and meeting notes; memoranda; proposals; and reports. Also included are monthly reports, correspondence; drafts and revisions of organizing records; contracts and agreements; press releases, clippings and other media campaign material representing Pryor's consultant work for DIAlogos, an advocacy organization for corporate responsibility; the Ten-Point Coalition where Pryor developed Boston Freedom Summer, a camp for troubled youth; the National Ten-Point Leadership Foundation; and other outreach campaigns. Several organizational projects involved media campaigns, which were produced by Pryor's company, Antelope Productions (previously known as Antelope Enterprises and Antelope Communications). These projects include correspondence, memoranda, promotional literature, and financial records related to her work for the Muriel S. Snowden Memorial Scholars Program (Project Reach), St. Paul's Christian Center, and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. Records of video projects produced and funded by major networks, academic institutions, and private funders include correspondence, letters of endorsement, and clippings; concept papers and proposals; video editing plans; draft scripts and revisions; financial records consisting of budgets, invoices, and expense reports; interviews; logistical planning notebooks; memoranda; programming schedules; art cards (still shots); and video transcripts for Jesse Jackson on the Record, a 1984 documentary of Jackson's presidential campaign, which was broadcast on WNEV-TV (Boston) and subsequently on PBS. Referred to as "The Jackson Project" during filming, notable items include Pryor's journals documenting her travels with Jackson to Central America and Cuba to meet with Latin American leaders (#21.10-22.7); a speech by Tomas Borge, Ministry of Interior in Nicaragua (#22.2); and a completed video transcript (#22.7). The documentary won several nominations and awards. These records also represent Pryor's work on Definitions - Part I: No Blacks, No Jews, No Gays, a highly successful documentary on tolerance funded by Northeastern University and the Society Organized Against Racism, and other projects. See also Series V.
This series also documents Pryor's work as a part-time faculty member at Wheelock and Emerson colleges, and the Institute of Politics at the J.F.K. School of Politics, Harvard University. Educational materials include course proposals, syllabi, outlines, directories, clippings, notebooks, and bibliographic material outlining the electoral process involved in local, state, and national campaigns and the unique challenges faced by women candidates. Some correspondence, minutes, member lists, and other material related to Pryor's memberships in NOW, the National Writers Union, and the Society Organized Against Racism, are also included. Nearly all of Pryor's writings in this series are unpublished, but still hold research value. Included are articles and essays describing the challenges of working for Edward Kennedy and related correspondence from publishers (#24.2, 24.7-24.10); draft manuscripts of novellas that may be drawn from Pryor's personal life experiences (#25.5); Stickland, a science fiction novel for children (#25.2-25.4); screenplays; poetry; and working papers. There is also an opinion piece on the African American clergy, written and submitted to the Boston Globe in the aftermath of gun violence (#25.6). The series is arranged alphabetically by organization and/or activity, and chronologically thereunder.
Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1930s-1993, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.19), contains photographs, negatives, and slides; family photograph albums; and scrapbooks. Photograph albums include Pryor as a baby, in elementary and junior high school, and with family members and friends. Scrapbooks contain some photographs, but mainly include clippings; invitations and greeting cards; certificates, citations, and awards; and obituaries of family and friends. Also included are photographs of Pryor in the early years of her career; at the opening of Edward Brooke's campaign headquarters and other public events and rallies that she organized on his behalf; and at an annual meeting attended by Edward M. Kennedy and his staff. The series is arranged chronologically. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].
Series V, AUDIOVISUAL, 1984-1988 (#Vt-236.1 - Vt-236.7), includes videotapes of Pryor's Emmy-nominated editorial for WBZ-TV The Politics of Equality, Wing I-3, Racial Troubles, and Productivity. Produced in four segments, the editorial explores efforts of Boston officials to address discrimination and violence, provides an overview of the conditions at the Danvers juvenile detention center, and reports on the state of America's declining productivity. Also included is Rosie's Place, a Boston area women's homeless shelter, which was a two-part series produced for WBZ-TV's public affair department. Videotapes representing Pryor's work on political campaigns include a promotional video of Mel King's mayoral campaign, unedited videotapes of Pryor's travels with Jesse Jackson in Cuba and Central America during his 1984 presidential campaign, and a sample sales presentation of the "Jackson Project" that was eventually produced as Jesse Jackson: On The Record. Pryor's film on tolerance Definitions - Part I: No Blacks, No Jews, No Gays funded by Northeastern University and the Society Organized against Racism, is also included. The series is arranged chronologically.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

African American families
African American women--Massachusetts--Boston
African Americans--Massachusetts--Boston--Social conditions
Autograph albums
Central America--Description and travel
College teachers--Massachusetts
Cuba--Description and travel
Diaries
Family records
Financial records
Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
Massachusetts--Social conditions
Media consultants--United States
Nicaragua--Description and travel
Photograph albums
Photographs
Political campaigns--United States
Political consultants--Massachusetts
Politics, Practical--Massachusetts
Television producers and directors--United States
Videotapes
Voyages and travels
Women political activists--Massachusetts
Women television producers and directors--United States
Women-owned business enterprises
Brooke, Edward W. (Edward William), 1919-2015
Emerson College--Faculty
Jackson, Jesse, 1941-
John F. Kennedy School of Government. Institute of Politics--Faculty
Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009
King, Mel
Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)--Faculty
Spelman College--Students
Ten-Point Coalition (Boston, Mass.)
Wheelock College--Faculty

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